January 13, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Swearengin in the Brown administration? Rumor comes from circumstantial evidence – Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is still mulling a run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Barbara Boxer, who won’t seek reelection next year. Most political watchers expect Swearengin to pass on the run.  That leaves those speculating about Swearengin’s future to look beyond 2016, when she reaches her mayoral term limit. Tim Clark has hinted at the possibility of another statewide run in 2018, but others are saying don’t overlook a possible job in Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration.  Fresno Bee article

Attorney General Harris to announce U.S. Senate bid — Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris will announce Tuesday that she is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer, according to a Harris adviser.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article

State budget

California lawmaker proposes taxing services — Democratic Senator Bob Hertzberg Monday released details of his plan to update California’s tax system. He’s calling for a sales tax on professional, construction, financial and agricultural services. The bill could also change the income and corporate tax structure. Hertzberg says he has three main objectives.  Capital Public Radio report

Gov. Brown

Critics accuse Gov. Jerry Brown of neglecting California’s poor — When Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his latest budget proposal last week and the topic turned to Californians’ financial struggles, he became uncharacteristically personal. His sympathetic words, though, didn’t convince many of his critics, including some Democrats, who accused him of not doing enough for those mired in poverty or struggling to make a living.  LA Times article

Valley politics

Warren Gubler: What should our voting districts look like? Visalia’s vice mayor writes, “Visalia City Council members will be elected by district beginning in 2016. What should the districts look like? Where should the five district boundaries be? We want your ideas, input and help to draw the boundaries.”  Gubler op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Gavin Newsom won’t run for Boxer’s Senate seat — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he will not seek the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, clearing a path for Attorney General Kamala Harris.  Capitol Alert; John Myers in KQED

Dan Walters: Boxer’s decision dissipates California’s political fog – Barbara Boxer’s decision to retire from the U.S. Senate dissipates some of the fog that has been obscuring California’s political landscape. We are learning not only which ambitious politicians will seek her seat in 2016, but also who may be waiting for another Senate seat, or the governorship, to open up. We may even learn whom Gov. Jerry Brown wants to succeed him four years hence.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Possible successors to California Sen. Barbara Boxer – Democrats have a supremely deep bench of possible successors, along with some dark horses. The 2016 race also will be a test for whether Republicans can regain a Senate seat in the Golden State, which has eluded them since 1992. Here’s a quick look at some of the possibilities, broken down by party and the person’s candidacy status.  Capitol Alert

A look back at U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s elections – U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer announced last week that she would retire at the end of her fourth term, 24 years after the California Democrat moved from the House to the Senate. It wasn’t easy to get there, and Boxer faced some tough campaigns for re-election. Along the way, she defeated three men and one woman, by percentage-point margins ranging from 4.6 (1992) to 20 (2004), while carrying from 19 counties (1992) to 27 (2004).  Capitol Alert

California school builders, others to gather signatures for November bond measure — School-construction and home-building groups Monday launched an effort to qualify a $9 billion school bond for the November 2016 ballot, only days after Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget plan that minimized the state’s role in paying for building new classrooms and modernizing existing ones.  Capitol Alert


Immigration a major hurdle to Republican unity in Congress —  As Republicans gather this week for a three-day strategy session at a Pennsylvania resort, the struggle over immigration is once again vexing their efforts to forge a unified front against President Obama.  LA Times article

Other areas

Lawmakers say water bond oversight will be priority – California’s dwindling water supply didn’t escape lawmakers last session. They passed emergency drought legislation, new groundwater management laws, and put a $7.5 billion water bond before voters. But now, keeping a close eye on how all of that is implemented is their next priority. Capital Public Radio report

Consumer group calls on Sen. Hertzberg to disclose clients – A consumer group asked Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) on Monday to disclose all clients he takes on as an attorney with a law firm to determine whether he has a conflict of interest in pushing a proposal to revamp corporate taxes in California.  LA Times article

Eli Lake and Josh Rogin: Patriot Act’s new friend in Congress in Devin Nunes – The Bloomberg View columnists write, “Rep. Devin Nunes may not be well known outside of his California congressional district in the San Joaquin Valley or the Washington beltway, but he is about to become one of the most important figures in U.S. national security.” Lake/Rogin op-ed in Fresno Bee

Obama wants firm to notify customers within 30 days of data breaches — President Obama on Monday proposed the first federal standard for data breaches, which would require companies to notify customers within 30 days of the discovery that their personal information was exposed to hackers.  LA Times article

White House admits higher-level officials should have gone to Paris — The White House acknowledged Monday that it blundered in not sending a prominent administration official to Sunday’s giant rally in Paris in support of free speech, making a rare admission of a mistake but offering little insight into how it happened.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee editorial

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Supreme Court lets stand delta smelt protection, dealing blow to farmers — The Supreme Court on Monday steered clear of a California whirlpool, letting stand a lower court’s decision that upheld federal rules protecting delta smelt.  McClatchy Newspapers article; KQED report; AP article; KVPR report; Stockton Record article

Kern County estimates $61 million hit from falling oil prices — Good news at the gas pump may be bad news for Kern County government’s economic future. It looks like $61 million in oil industry property tax revenue will disappear from the county budget next fiscal year, which starts July 1.  Bakersfield Californian article

Another record year of applications for UC Merced — UC Merced’s 19,932 undergraduate applications for next school year set a new record for applicants and was a 14 percent increase over last year’s total of 17,469, according to numbers released Monday by the UC Office of the President. The school still expects to only grow slightly because of space constraints. According to the data, 17,611 high school seniors applied to UC Merced, compared with 15,264 last year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Jobs and the Economy

Creditor tries to delay Stockton’s emergence from bankruptcy – The lone remaining dissident creditor in Stockton’s bankruptcy case will attempt this morning to win a delay in the implementation of the city’s plan to restructure its debt. Franklin Templeton Investments will ask Judge Christopher Klein in federal court in Sacramento to place a stay on the confirmation of the city’s Chapter 9 Plan of Adjustment.  Stockton Record article

Michael Fitzgerald: Why having Deis was nice – San Bernardino’s bankruptcy got more complicated this week when bond insurer Ambac sued. Ambac is basically playing the role Franklin Templeton Investments plays in Stockton’s case.  Why would Ambac make nice to Stockton but play hardball in San Berdoo? Presumably one big reason is Bob Deis. Stockton’s city manager 2010-13 skillfully negotiated with the Wall Street banks which clearly didn’t care whether Stockton became ungovernable.  Fitzgerald blog in Stockton Record

Fresno Bee: Here is Fresno supervisors’ chance to back up their talk – One of our frustrations with the Fresno County Board of Supervisors has been the supervisors’ penchant for saying one thing and then doing another. Case in point: The board’s mantra that county government must run more like a business, and then voting in a way that suggests the board has no interest in adopting a business-like approach to governance. The latest example happened last month when the board failed to muster the necessary supermajority support to provide the assessor’s office with a state grant totaling $2.06 million over three years.  Fresno Bee editorial

Big-rig drivers getting cheaper diesel break – Missouri-based truck driver Ken Cannon says he plots his long-haul trips from the Midwest to the West Coast by simply looking at the diesel prices on service stations along the road. Yes, it gets expensive to go West.  Visalia Times-Delta article

West Coast port troubles persist despite federal mediation – Cargo continues to move slowly through the West Coast’s major sea ports, despite the intervention of a federal mediator to help dockworkers and their employers reach a new contract.  AP article

San Francisco’s building boom sparks hiring spree by city, state agencies — Three San Francisco government departments and the local office for a state agency are scrambling to hire staff to keep up with the city’s steady increase in construction projects.  KQED report

Thousands of state workers are hoarding vacation days – Not many workers can rack up almost two years of paid vacation time. Yet two California state officials have done just that and stand to cash out their vacation for hundreds of thousands of dollars when they quit or retire. They are the top vacation hoarders in a state bureaucracy with a lot of them. Tens of thousands of state employees have exceeded the official limit of 80 banked vacation days, leaving the state on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

California state workers retirements fall slightly in 2014, but trending up – Slightly fewer California state workers filed papers to retire last year, according to CalPERS data, although the pension-taking trend appears to be heading back up.  Sacramento Bee article

‘Diners’ shoot causes restaurant rift – Though he hit seven Bakersfield restaurants on a Food Network binge last week, there’s only so much Guy Fieri to go around, a problem that has cost one popular eastside restaurant manager her job.  Bakersfield Californian article

Clovis shopping center with old Save Mart will get new owner – The shopping center at Clovis and Herndon avenues with a longtime vacant anchor store is getting new owners and will be renovated. The Trading Post Shopping Center, where a Save Mart store closed in 2007 and the CVS store recently left, too, is in escrow with Southern California-based Rich Development. That’s the company that built Marketplace at El Paseo near Highway 99 and Herndon.  Fresno Bee article

LA-area stadium developers expect $100 million in public paybacks — The developers behind a sprawling sports and housing complex in the Los Angeles suburbs — whose centerpiece stadium could become home for an NFL team — expect to recoup up to $100 million in local tax dollars in the first five years of operation, an Associated Press review has found.  AP article

Tax breaks do figure into NFL stadium plan in Inglewood – When developers and city officials unveiled plans last week for an NFL stadium in Inglewood, they painted a picture of a rare thing: A big-ticket project completed with no tax money whatsoever. Turns out it’s not that simple.  LA Times article

Pacific Ethanol plans cogeneration upgrade in Stockton – Pacific Ethanol Inc. announced Monday it would install a $12 million cogeneration system at its Stockton ethanol plant, providing electrical power and steam heat, while at the same time burning waste gases and reducing smog-producing emissions from the facility.  Stockton Record article

Bruce Maiman: Big Oil plays Chicken Little on gas prices and AB32 – For months, the warnings were endless: Come January, gas prices would jump as much as 76 cents a gallon. “Put the brakes on the Hidden Gas Tax!” implored countless Facebook ads. Anyone seeing pump prices skyrocketing?  Maiman in Sacramento Bee

Sacramento Bee: Is this the best fire contract Sacramento can do? – Absolutely, firefighters in Sacramento and elsewhere do dangerous work. Just Monday morning, three were injuried in a blaze in South Sacramento. Still, their pay – like salaries for other city workers – has to be viewed in terms of what taxpayers can afford.  Sacramento Bee editorial

SACTO members approve merger with CEO group — Members of SACTO have formally approved the economic development organization’s merger with an upstart group launched last year by Sacramento area chief executives. The merger will mean SACTO, which has been the region’s official economic development and business recruitment organization for 40 years, will give way to a new group called the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council.  Sacramento Bee article


Drainage key to reported deal between farmers and feds – A deal between a valley water district and the federal government could help resolve a decade’s long dispute over land on the Valley’s Westside. KVPR report

Efforts to protect groundwater continue – Stanislaus County supervisors say they’re intensely focused on finding long-term solutions to groundwater problems, but some of their comments were challenged by those at a Monday gathering.  Modesto Bee article

Project would expand farmers’ reuse of oil field ‘produced water’ – A partnership between Kern County petroleum producers and local farmers proposes to expand the amount of oil field wastewater used to irrigate crops. The Kern Tulare Water District has applied for a $7.5 million federal grant to help pay for an $18 million reservoir and pipeline system that would store and convey 6,000 acre feet per year of “produced water,” the salty solution that comes up from the ground with crude oil.  Bakersfield Californian article

Inland Empire water agencies shoring up supply for times of drought — Two Inland Empire water wholesale agencies, just like most consumers, are tired of dealing with the impact of drought. So the agencies are spending many millions of dollars to make sure they get better use of the water they have on hand and to capture most of the rain that falls here.  San Bernardino Sun article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stockton police moving forward with body cams – A small band of patrol officers quietly began testing body cameras last week after the Stockton Police Department and the union that represents the force’s officers agreed on a policy governing how the palm-sized recording devices will be used.  Stockton Record article

Bakersfield police give low-level crimes the personal touch – Starting Monday at 0-700 hours, ripped-off restaurateurs, owners of stolen cars and other victims of report-only, lower-priority crimes began getting a little something extra special from Bakersfield Police Department. Instead of having to leave a message or being directed to BPD’s website, non-emergency callers were able to give their report to a real live person.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno man sues city after police dog bites him – After arguing with his ex-wife, Fresno architect Cesar Rodriguez went to his office to cool off. But when police arrived at Rodriguez’s office to serve him a stay-away order, he would not let them in, so officers unleashed a police dog named Kubo to take him into custody.  Fresno Bee article

Madera County jail summons help when inmate melee breaks out – A fight among inmates at the Madera County Department of Corrections Monday night prompted jail staff to call for help from area law enforcement agencies, officials said.  Fresno Bee article

LA County sheriff’s deputies implicated in towing thefts, bribes — Three Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were relieved of duty last week for allegedly accepting bribes from drivers and stealing items from towed vehicles in the Lynwood area, the Sheriff’s Department announced Monday.  LA Times article

Mayor Johnson, Sacramento police union head to attend Obama task force — Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the head of the city police union will travel to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to take part in a policing task force established by President Obama.  Sacramento Bee article

Violent crime rose 14.3 percent in LA; officials vow action – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday he was disappointed to announce that violent crime rose for the first time in more than a decade, but vowed to work with police on strategies to make the city safer.  LA Times article

Popular California corrections blog publisher dies from heart attack — The founder and chief contributor to a well-known, hard-edged blog that covers California correctional issues died suddenly last week from a heart attack. Jeff Doyle, 55, was the principle voice of the Paco Villa Corrections Blog, which operated under the slogan, “Paco has your back!” Over the last decade it became a go-to source for prison and parole officers who wanted the latest news and gossip about their profession.  Sacramento Bee article


UC: Record number of applications to its 9 undergrad campuses –  The UC system received a record number of applications to its nine undergraduate campuses, with more than a third from Latinos for the first time, officials announced Monday. Applications from California high school seniors rose by 3.2% over last year, while the number of Latinos, African American and transfer students seeking fall 2015 admission also inched up, officials said Monday.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

UC freshmen applications grow, but state funding standoff could stall expansion plans — Every one of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses had more freshman applications this year, making them more selective than ever, new data released Monday show. But a state budget standoff could stall UC’s plan to open the door to more Californians amid widespread frustration over soaring demand and plummeting admissions rates.  San Jose Mercury News article

Let’s double Fresno State’s enrollment of American Indian students, President Castro says — Fresno State President Joseph Castro says he wants to double the number of American Indian students enrolled at the university by 2016, reversing the tide on a trend that’s shown a sharp decline in native students since 2010. Fresno Bee article

Preschool advocates seek more funding – Advocates for expanding preschool to low-income 4-year-olds were disappointed with the 4,000 additional enrollment slots proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in his 2015-16 budget released Friday. EdSource article

LA Unified’s iPad program plagued by problems early, review says – A $1.3-billion iPads-for-all program in Los Angeles schools was plagued by lack of resources and inadequate planning for how the devices would be used in classrooms and, later, how they would be evaluated, according to a federal review.  LA Times article


PG&E files appeal in takeover bid – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is challenging the recent decision allowing a local water district to take over retail electric service for Manteca, Ripon and Escalon. In an appeal made public on Monday, PG&E claims the Local Area Formation Commission — a body made up mostly of local elected officials — is improperly allowing the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to decide for itself whether it can afford the takeover.  Stockton Record article

Tougher sludge rule slips in under radar — An interesting little rule change slipped quietly into Kern County law Tuesday. It’s now more difficult to develop a project that spreads treated human and industrial waste, called biosolids, on county farmland. Supervisors passed the rule without any public comment as part of the routine “consent agenda” during Tuesday’s meeting.  Bakersfield Californian article

Health/Human Services

Measles cases linked to Disneyland visits jump to 22; local health officials take precautions — With the confirmation of 22 cases of measles in the state, local health officials are reminding the public about the importance of staying up to date with immunizations, especially if traveling.  Merced Sun-Star article; LA Times article

Kaiser mental health workers begin statewide strike — Kaiser Permanente’s mental health workers began a weeklong strike Monday to protest staffing levels at the health provider’s facilities in Sacramento and statewide.  Sacramento Bee article; Fresno Bee article; Bakersfield Californian article; Ann Amato op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Kern Medical Center opens ‘one-stop shop’ clinic – Kern Medical Center has cut the ribbon on its REACH clinic and, during a Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, CEO Russell Judd explained why the new health care facility represents a major change for the county hospital.  Bakersfield Californian article

Obese preschoolers may trim down with Head Start, study saysHead Start programs have been shown to help poor children do better in school, but they may also help them fight obesity, a study suggests. During a year of Head Start preschool, obese and overweight children were much more likely to slim down than comparison groups of kids.  AP article

State fines Mercury Insurance $27.5 million for unapproved fees – State regulators have issued a record $27.5-million fine against Mercury Insurance Group for charging customers fees that had not been approved by the Department of Insurance.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Porterville’s Sierra Hospital bans child visitors to stop flu spread – Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville has banned children under 13 from visiting patients to thwart the spread of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.  Fresno Bee article

Too many people take aspirin to prevent heart attack, stroke, study says — Aspirin is a popular drug for people who’ve never had a heart attack or stroke and would like to keep it that way. But for more than one in 10 people who do so, aspirin could do more harm than good, a new study suggests.  LA Times article


More properties eyed for high-speed rail condemnation — Twenty-eight more pieces of property in Fresno and Madera counties are in line for condemnation by the state to make way for California’s high-speed train project following a vote Monday in Sacramento.  Fresno Bee article

Other Areas

Food truck issue returns to Turlock council – The City Council finally could decide Tuesday night whether mobile food vendors belong downtown. The debate dates to 2013, when Christopher Shaun sought to set up a trailer at West Main Street and Broadway to sell smoothies, crepes, salads, wraps and fresh fruit bowls.  Modesto Bee article

Turlock seeks to ease way for walkers, cyclists – The city on Wednesday night will take another step, so to speak, toward making streets friendly to walking. And for bicycles, wheelchairs and other means of getting around that do not involve cars.  Modesto Bee article

Bob Smith: Streets of Bakersfield should be safe for those who use them – The Bakersfield City Council member writes, “As the city councilman for northwest Bakersfield, the No. 1 concern I hear from my constituents is that ‘People drive too damn fast!’ I agree.”  Smith op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

$9-million Modesto Irrigation District-Modesto dispute headed to trial – An April trial may resolve a $9 million dispute between Modesto City Hall and the Modesto Irrigation District over the botched expansion of a water treatment plant near Waterford, which is six years late and still not finished.  Modesto Bee article

Merced selects new fire chief — Merced city staff announced Monday that Battalion Chief Shawn Henry has been hired as chief of Merced Fire Department. Henry, 51, has been a firefighter for 31 years and worked for Merced since 1991.  Merced Sun-Star article

West Sacramento homeless project is a work in progress – Yolo County is collaborating on the project with West Sacramento officials, local churches and private industry groups, with the aim of reducing the area’s homeless population, estimated at about 475 people. The city and county each contributed $50,000.  Sacramento Bee article

Illegal ivory for sale in California has doubled in 8 years, study says —  An expert investigating illegal African ivory trafficking found that as much as 90% of the ivory he examined in Los Angeles markets and stores was illegal under state law. He found similar numbers in San Francisco and concluded that the proportion of illegal ivory for sale in California has doubled since his last study eight years ago.  LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Fresno County supervisors have a chance to back up their talk by voting to accept state grant for assessor’s office.

Sacramento Bee – France deserved better than a limp U.S. response; Absolutely, firefighters in Sacramento and elsewhere do dangerous work. Just Monday morning, three were injuried in a blaze in South Sacramento. Still, their pay – like salaries for other city workers – has to be viewed in terms of what taxpayers can afford.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers on more money to fight hyacinth, a celebration of citizenship, and other issues.